Skip to main content

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Presented by

Countdown to Kickoff: Buccaneers-Falcons, Week 7 2023 

In a battle for first place in the NFC South, the Buccaneers and Falcons will face-off in Week Seven … Key stats, lineup notes and more


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face the Atlanta Falcons in Week Seven and sole possession of the NFC South hangs in the balance. A win for the Buccaneers (3-2) keeps them atop the hierarchy and a loss would propel the Falcons (3-3) to first place. Entering the high-stakes divisional showdown, Tampa Bay will look to bounce back after a 20-6 defeat to the visiting Lions last Sunday, as inefficiency on third down became the deciding factor. Atlanta is also coming off a 24-16 loss to the Commanders in which takeaways sealed the club's fate. The Falcons have lost three of their last four contests with five turnovers during that span and they will vie for redemption at Raymond James Stadium. After a week of preparation, here is what the matchup comes down to: 

4 Stats That Matter 

  • The Falcons rank in the top-six in total, pass, third down and red zone defense in 2023. 
  • Atlanta has five players with 175-plus receiving yards in 2023 (most in the NFL) including receiver Drake London (329), tight end Jonnu Smith (282), tight end Kyle Pitts (251), running back Bijan Robinson (189) and receiver Mack Hollins (184). 
  • Tampa Bay has the number one red zone defense in the NFL in 2023 (23.1 opposing red zone touchdown percentage). 
  • The Buccaneers are allowing 247.0 pass yards per game (seventh-most in the NFL) but just 83.8 rush yards per game (seventh-fewest in the NFL) in 2023. 

3 Lineup Notes 

  • The Bucs began the week with only one player limited at practice. Vita Vea was held out of practice on Thursday due to a foot injury, but he returned to action on Friday in a limited fashion, which garnered optimism from Head Coach Todd Bowles that the club's nose tackle would be available against Atlanta in Week Seven. "He looked a little better today, so hopefully by Sunday he should be at full tilt," said Bowles. Bowles acknowledged that there was no specific moment that led to Vea's soreness. "It didn't happen in either [the game or practice]," he said. "It was just sore. He just came in and said it was sore and got it checked out, so we're monitoring him."
  • Along with Vea, outside linebacker Anthony Nelson was listed as questionable on Friday's final injury report. Nelson was sidelined for the team's Week Six matchup against Detroit but was a full participant in practice this week ahead of the division rivalry. 
  • For the Falcons, all active players fully participated on Thursday and Friday's practice ahead of the divisional clash with Tampa Bay. Every player on their 53-man roster practiced as a full participant – a rarity in the NFL at the Week Seven mark. Defensive lineman Calais Campbell was back on the field after he was given a rest day on Wednesday.

2 Challenges Presented by the Falcons 

The Falcons' offense is predicated on running the football through various personnel groupings. Head Coach Arthur Smith aims to create mismatches through advantages with position-less playmakers at running back, tight end and receiver, boasting Kyle Pitts, Bijan Robinson, Drake London, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jonnu Smith and Tyler Allgeier. The Falcons utilize the most diverse groupings in the NFL, using 12 personnel 35% of the time (seventh), 21 personnel 24% of the time (fifth) and 22 personnel 10% of the time (second). Atlanta also uses motion at the fourth highest rate in the league per Next Gen Stats, which creates free releases for receivers/tight ends and time for rushers to gain a head of steam. With versatility along the formation, it is hard for defenses to pick their poison. If defenses line up in a bigger base package, the Falcons can exploit with Drake London, Kyle Pitts and Bijan Robinson in the passing game. If defenses put their smaller, nickel package on the field, Atlanta can combat with the run game featuring Robinson, Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson.

In the Falcons' run-based system that utilizes wide-zone to set up play-action and open horizontal/vertical windows, Atlanta drafted Robinson in April, who has already demonstrated his vision, power and elusiveness. Robinson has accumulated 401 rushing yards (10th in the NFL) with the majority coming around the tackles. London has emerged as the team's top receiver in 2023, posting 26 receptions for 329 yards and two scores. The Falcons' offensive line dictates the flow and is anchored by guard Chris Lindstrom, who is adept as a move blocker in space. The Falcons also added tight end Jonnu Smith in a trade this offseason to bolster multiple tight end sets and incumbent, Allgeier, posted an 1,000-yard season as a rookie. 

"If we don't stop the run, we're not winning," said Run Game Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers. "I can tell you that. They are really a two-headed monster. The last time we played Atlanta, we didn't really do a good job stopping the run either. They're a team in Atlanta, with the extra pieces they added and their commitment to the running game, [that] make them very viable because then you also throw in the quarterback run game element that they have. And then you add in a different receiving element. The last couple times we have played them we always missed [Kyle] Pitts, so now you have Pitts along with [Drake] London. They just create problems for us."

The Falcons rank fourth in yards allowed on defense and acquired an abundance of riches during the offseason to fortify the defense in all three levels signing safety Jessie Bates III, cornerback Jeff Okudah, inside linebacker Kaden Elliss, outside linebacker Bud Dupree, defensive tackle David Onyemata and defensive end Calais Campbell – all of whom are in the starting lineup. The pairing of Onyemata with one of the league's most touted in Grady Jarrett, has created an imposing tandem in the Falcons' defensive interior. On the back end, former Bengals safety Jessie Bates has already logged three interceptions and two forced fumbles in a Falcons' pass defense that ranks fourth. Okudah has only allowed a passer rating of 53.4 on 107 coverage snaps (3 receptions allowed). Dupree, the former Pittsburgh star, leads the Falcons in sacks with 2.0 and the influx of talent has taken Atlanta's defense to the next level in 2023. 

1 Key Thought from Dave Canales 

On the run game

"I think, for me, the challenge is this: if you over-simplify, it makes it easy for the defense to stop what you're doing. That may lead to success on a couple of plays, but I think that in the pass game, and the run game, if we put the strain on ourselves now – early in the season – by the time we hit midseason and as we go, the guys get familiar and accustomed to having all the different variety, having the different types of runs, the different types of passes, the fly motions, the shifts, the different things that we're working on. That does take time. It's kind of like I don't want to sacrifice where we're heading for right now. At the same time, we've got to find a way to make yards. We've got to find a way to make first downs and continue to have success while we're figuring that stuff out. That task does fall squarely on my shoulders and the staff really helping me to put together a good, versatile attack."

Related Content

Latest Headlines